CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A new policy at a major area hospital has some women upset and changing plans on where they’ll give birth.
The policy at Novant Health requires that doulas now register with the hospital. Some moms-to-be worry that’s a conflict of interest, but a spokesperson for Novant Hospital said it’s a move to keep patients safe.
Andrea Nielsen is a nurse so when she became pregnant with her first child she knew she’d want her husband by her side in the hospital. And she wanted a doula, a trained non-medical professional who provides support during childbirth.
"Just being a nurse, I know it can be easy when a patient is in a vulnerable spot," she said. "You don’t need to focus on anything but yourself and what you need to do. A doula is someone who knows how you want things done and knows the way the system works and can advocate for you in those times when you can’t."
She was planning to give birth at Novant Hospital until she learned about a new policy there requiring doulas to register with the hospital.
"From what our doula told us it’s almost like she’s contracting with the hospital to work with them she was like I work for you," Nielsen said.
In fact, Novant told us it’s the same registration process required for its contract workers, agents and even its vendors. All the people who are brought in by the hospital.
But Nielsen is worried that that means her doula would have to answer to the hospital first and her second.
Novant told us the policy is new for doulas in response to COVID-19.
A spokesperson sent us this statement:
“Novant Health has a long-standing policy, which asks all non-Novant Health workers go through a screening process to verify their immunizations are up-to-date and they’ve passed a background check and drug screening."
The statement goes on to say that after the pandemic they decided doulas should also go through the same verification process.
We checked and Atrium Health does not require doulas to register.
Sarah Smith is a Charlotte-area doula and said, that "most of doulas who have chosen not to become a part of the program have done so by choice because to us it is a conflict of interest."
Of the estimated 300 doulas active In Charlotte, Novant Health tells us only 30 have registered with them.
Kira Kimble is also a doula.
"It's important to have a distinction between who is hospital staff and who isn’t. It's essential that the support person be independent of the hospital," Kimble said. "The policy itself is not patient-centered it takes away from – it takes away patient voice and choice. They are limited to those few doulas who have signed up for the program so it's really restrictive in terms of giving patients choice."
Andrea Nielsen made her choice and now she's planning to give birth at home instead of the hospital.
"It was a pretty big bummer, I wasn’t as comfortable going in with just us. I felt like I wouldn’t be successful in doing what I wanted to do," she said.
Here is the complete Novant Health policy:
Novant Health Verified Doula Program Program
Background Novant Health’s top priority is the health and safety of our patients and team members. To help ensure and enhance our safety measures, which are more important than ever before with COVID-19 in our communities, Novant Health is asking all vendors, agents, contractors and those who perform professional support services within its facilities to adhere to its long-standing verification policy. As such, the Women’s Health Institute is implementing the same verification program for doulas. This will aid in the continued health and safety of patients and team members, and it will allow those patients who have secured the emotional support services of doulas increased access to that important support throughout their labor and birth experience. Novant Health respects the professional and compassionate support doulas provide to women across all the communities during the prenatal, birth, and postpartum periods, and we’re happy to formally recognize doulas as valuable members of the patient’s chosen emotional support team.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I become verified? Novant Health uses the vendor credentialing platform Vendormate via GHX to register vendors, verify credentials and monitor compliance. All vendors, agents, and representatives who will provide services at a Novant Health location or have remote access to Novant Health’s IT system must be registered and compliant in Vendormate. To create an account, please visit https://registersupplier.ghx.com/reg/network/vendor/ A list of Novant Health’s requirements are attached to this letter. All requirements must be completed and the representative in “PASS” status in Vendormate prior to coming on-site or accessing our IT system. For Vendormate questions or assistance, visit http://ghx.com/customer-care/ or call (888) 476-0377.
What is the cost of Vendormate registration? There is a fee of $25 for the verification process. While Novant Health does not set pricing for Vendormate, we did work closely with the third party to explore and secure a reduced cost for doulas to complete their screening process.
Why is there a cost? Is there a way to get the fee waived? We understand patients choose doulas to provide them with an invaluable support service. Similar to all Novant Health team members, vendors, and contractors who perform paid professional services at our facilities, a proof of immunization, drug screening and comprehensive background check must be completed. This is to help ensure the health and safety of our patients, which is our top priority. To ensure the privacy of individuals undergoing a background check, Novant Health goes through a third party to complete the process. As such, the one-time fee goes directly to Vendormate, which sets the costs. The onetime fee will cover all doulas within an incorporated group or an individual doula should he or she practice independently.
Novant Health Verified Doula Program
Do I need an independent doula certification to be a verified doula at Novant Health? As part of the verification process, doulas will be asked to provide one of the following: proof of independent certification or doula training. Doulas without proof of certification can instead provide three letters of recommendation from nurses, midwives, or physicians.
What are the verification requirements? Verification requires the completion of proof of vaccination, a background check, and drug screening.
Does the verification process make me an affiliate of Novant Health? No, becoming a verified doula does not make you an affiliate or team member of Novant Health.
How long does the verification process take? Verification times may vary due to background check and drug screening clearance. Most verifications are completed within 10 days.
Will verified doulas have an orientation or training? Verified doulas will need to complete Novant Health I-Learning modules Blood-borne Pathogens module, NE0139.
How are verified doulas affected by COVID-19 safety measures? Verified doulas will no longer be considered visitors and as such, will no longer be subject to visitor restrictions in our acute care facilities. Novant Health has instituted universal masking and screenings for all facilities. As with all team members, visitors, vendors and individuals providing professional support services, verified doulas will be required to wear a mask and will be screened at the entrance of the hospital for signs and symptoms of illness, including fever. At this time, verified doulas will not be able to accompany moms to prenatal visits, the post-partum care area or post-partum follow up visits. Anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or has been in direct contact with someone infected with COVID19 cannot provide in-person labor support for at least 14 days.
Will verified doulas be allowed to support patients who have tested positive for COVID-19? For patients who have declined testing or have tested positive for COVID-19, doulas can provide virtual doula care.
Why did Novant Health make the decision to require verification now? When COVID-19 began to impact our communities, the careful decision was made to implement visitor restrictions across our entire healthcare system to help ensure the safety of our patients and team members. As a result, a laboring mother can only be accompanied by one support person. We understand the invaluable and important supportive role doulas play in the labor and delivery of patients, which is why we have encouraged the use of tools like FaceTime and other apps to ensure connection during that time. Novant Health Verified Doula Program As we began to resume postponed services and lift some visitor restrictions, Novant Health re-evaluated our policies for visitors, contractors, and individuals providing professional support services across our entire footprint. In fact, Novant Health has long required any individual or entity providing a professional support service to complete an application through Vendormate. As such, we’re communicating with all doulas the need for verification by going through this third party. A welcome result for all parties is that doulas will no longer be classified as visitors and will be able to be an additional support person for laboring mothers, during COVID-19 – and beyond.
How does required verification support doulas? The program formally recognizes doulas as important members of the patient’s chosen support care team. Verified doulas will be issued Novant Health badges, allowing increased access to support areas. Further, verified doulas will no longer be considered visitors. This means doulas will not be impacted by current or future visitor restrictions put in place in our hospitals. Going through this process also supports doulas through education on patient privacy, safety and corporate policies, which all of our team members have access to. In fact, Novant Health nurses, midwives, physicians and team members who have patient contact are required to complete mandatory education and by not having any exceptions, we can better ensure consistent, quality care for patients. Together, we can support Novant Health’s commitment to providing a remarkable patient experience, including policies designed to support women through an empowering birth experience.
A note about Novant Health’s non-discrimination policy Novant Health does not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, disability, sex, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, gender identity or age with regard to admission, treatment or participation in its programs, services and activities, or in employment. Free foreign language interpreters are available for individuals who are limited English proficient. Free sign language and oral interpreters, TTY’s and other services are available to deaf and hard-of-hearing persons. For further information about this policy, contact: Novant Health director of internal audit & compliance, 1-704-384-7638 or TDD 1-800-735-8262.
Have a relative or friend in another state and want to know when they can get vaccinated? Visit NBC News' Plan Your Vaccine site to find out about each state's vaccine rollout plan.